Minnesota woman pushes for boat insurance law after accident

Courtney Godfrey speaks with Minnesota state Sen. Bobby Joe Champion.
Courtney Godfrey speaks with Minnesota state Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, about her push to ban family exclusions for boat liability insurance, outside the Senate chambers at the state Capitol in St. Paul on Monday, March 26, 2018.
Dave Orrick | Pioneer Press via AP

A Twin Cities woman who lost her lower left leg in a boating accident is advocating for a change in state law after she was excluded from her husband's insurance policy on the boat.

Courtney Godfrey lost part of her leg in the boat's propeller after she was flung overboard while the boat was making a turn on Christmas Lake in September, the Pioneer Press reported.

Boat liability coverage in Minnesota almost always excludes spouses and children. Boat policies that do cover medical payments for family members often have caps and don't cover non-medical expenses, such as lost wages.

Godfrey is now spearheading a bill to ban "family exclusions" in watercraft liability policies.

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"I'm not benefiting from this bill. I'm not here for myself," Godfrey said. "I don't want other people to go through a trauma like I've been through — and then learn the insurance they thought would cover them doesn't."

The bill has bipartisan support, but there are also some skeptics.

"It's a complicated issue, and I'm definitely willing to listen," said Republican Paul Gazelka, the Senate majority leader. "But I'm not sure it's wise to have a policy where you can sue yourself. It will dramatically drive up the cost of liability insurance."

Changing the current system would allow for fraud and abuse, said Mark Kulda, vice president of public affairs for the Insurance Federation of Minnesota.

Liability claims are based on accusations of negligence. Allowing family members to accuse each other of negligence creates a situation where those involved could benefit from making false claims about injuries or other damages.

Changing the current system will also make boat insurance more expensive, Kulda said.

"The problem is we're overpaying for insurance right now in Minnesota," he said. "We don't want that with boat insurance. People will stop buying it. That's not good for us or boat owners."